All thy children shall be taught of the Lord ; and great
shall be the peace of thy children. —Isaiah liv. 13.
A MONG the many wonderful things revealed to men concerning the spiritual world, none are more interesting to a parent than those which relate to the condition of infants and children in that life. There are but few parents who must not feel a personal interest in this subject, for there are not many who have not been called upon to surrender one dear object of affection to the Great Shepherd of souls. As the poet has beautifully sung,—” There is no flock, however watched and tended, But one dead lamb is there ; There is no fireside, howso’er defended. But has one vacant chair.”
A third part of the human race die in infancy and childhood. A third part of heaven, therefore, must consist of those who have left the earth in the morning of life. For all infants and children, of whatever parents, whether Christian or heathen, go to heaven and become angels. I say become angels, for they enter the spiritual world as they leave this. They have the same form, the same infantile and childish nature ; they are as ignorant and helpless. The only change that has taken place is their withdrawal from the material body and consequent open introduction into the spiritual world. They need the watchful care and instruction of others as much as if they had remained in this world. But the Lord does not leave them orphaned and helpless ; He makes provision for their wants. They are all “taught of the Lord,” not directly, but mediately.
Infants are committed to the care of those angels who love them with a purer, wiser, and more ardent affection even than their own mothers. It may be difficult for a mother to believe that any one can love her child as well as she does. But there is much that is selfish, worldly, and weak in parental affection. It does not always lead us to consult the best good of the child. Parents themselves are ignorant, and do not know how to guide their children right. They are in evil and falsities, and do not know what is the highest good. They are deceived by the fallacies of time and sense, and they sacrifice the children’s spiritual and eternal good for some temporal gratification. But it is not so with the angels. Their love is not mixed with any alloy of self They look only to the real good of those infant angels who are committed to their care. Their love is not a weak and erring natural affection, but a pure, strong, and unchanging love, gentler and tenderer than ever warmed the heart of any mother on earth ; a love that never falters, never wearies, that broods over and cherishes in its warmth, and gently calls into action all the latent powers of the children, as the warm breath of spring wooes from the seed the tender bud and beautiful blossoms of the plant. Not only is every want supplied more fully and tenderly than any mother on earth could supply it, but every possible provision is made for the children’s comfort and happiness. They are ministered to by a perfect love, that has wisdom and skill and power to carry into effect all its desires. Nor do children in heaven seem to themselves to be among strangers. Many a mother’s heart has been grieved at the thought that her child should be removed from the bosom of the family and placed among strangers. She cannot but think that her little one will miss her and pine for her, even though it dwells with the angels. But it is not so. The child does not go among strangers. The angels to whose care it is now openly committed have always been watching over it. It has always been in their society. It was by their ministry that it first awoke to conscious life ; it was their sweet influence that excited the first smile ; it was their life that flowed into the mother’s heart and formed its image in the mother’s face, and created the attraction between the child’s and the mother’s life. Thus the child sees faces that are already familiar. The longings of its heart are satisfied. It feels at home ; it lacks nothing ; no want of its nature is unsupplied.
Infants and children are not committed to the angels in general. Each one is a special trust to some one angel. Each child is committed to some one angel who is the best fitted of all who dwell in the heavens to take charge of it. Children differ in genius and character, and so do the angels. And that one of all who dwell in the heavens, who is best suited to the peculiar disposition, and best able to touch the secret springs of character in each child, is selected to take care of it. Infants are committed to the care of the celestial angels, who are the very forms and embodiments of innocence and love. They take them to their own bosoms, tender and glowing with heavenly affections, and educate them, develop their powers in heavenly order and harmony until they arrive at a state when their wants demand a different culture. They are then transferred to others, and thus their wants are always supplied.
As infants go into the spiritual world as infants, and children as children, they need instruction. They gain no knowledge by this change of worlds. They do, however, gain more favorable conditions for acquiring it. They are freed from the clog and weight of the material body. They have a spiritual body, still in the same childlike form, but it is not enveloped in a material body. It, therefore, moves with greater freedom and develops more rapidly. It does not become wearied so soon, and is freed from the weakness and disease of our material natures.
The child is now in a world where all things are more real, substantial, and perfect to every sense. The senses are far more acute and subtile in their powers ; everything is in a clearer light and appears in a more distinct form, and all the forces that flow into the soul are more powerful, and move it to a more intense and vigorous life. Every faculty has a freer play and a wider range and a truer direction. So great is the change that it is difhcult, if not impossible, for human language to describe it. Its most fitting representative is the change in the state of the earth from winter to summer. The young soul throws off all its torpor and coldness ; all its faculties are called into play, and unfold like the plant when the earth is warm and tremulous with the inflowing life of a summer sun.
Children in the spiritual world are much more easily instructed than in this world, because they have formed no bad habits and imbibed no false principles which oppose the truth. We see that these obstacles are very great, but they are much greater than we suppose. Instruction here is very often the blind leading the blind. False principles are actually inculcated ; corrupt and destructive ends are directly sought ; evil habits are confirmed, the understanding perverted, and the heart corrupted. And when the good seed is sown it falls on stony ground or in the hard-trodden paths of natural, worldly life, where it cannot take root. The greater part of our education has no reference to our spiritual nature. In the opinion of the world, a man may be highly educated and refined ; he may be learned in all the sciences and classics, and yet be totally blind to the first principles of spiritual truth. He may even deny that there is a spiritual world and that he has a soul. The most of our education consists of instruction in natural things, and it is directed to worldly ends. And these selfish and worldly influences, which are opposed to a true spiritual life, begin to operate upon us in infancy, and follow us all along in our education, so that, when we come to teach or to learn spiritual things, we find the ground preoccupied. We have to contend against these false principles and habits. We have much to unlearn, which is far more difficult than to learn. But this is not the case with our children who have been removed to the spiritual world. They are not taught anything which they have to unlearn. Every step is an advance towards a higher state. They are not enticed away by evil examples, but all influences conspire to help them on, to unfold their natures in heavenly order.
Children in heaven are not educated alone, but with other children of a similar genius and state. Children are social. They are never so happy as when they can mingle freely with those of a similar disposition. In the spiritual worM all the innocent and sportive principles of their nature have free play. But this is not all. The methods of instruction, the skill of the teachers, and the truths taught are as much superior as the state of their minds to receive instruction and the conditions in which they are placed. They are taught nothing but the truth, and truth which relates to life. They are taught that the Lord is their Father, and that they receive every good from Him. They are also taught the nature of charity, or mutual love, and its duties. They are taught how to live the life of heaven, and are continually initiated into the practice of what they learn. They do not commit the truth to memory, but to life. They have no hard lessons to learn for future practice. But they learn to-day the lessons they need to live today. Instruction is spiritual food and drink. As we cannot eat for a distant future, so the children in heaven cannot be instructed for the future. They receive their food day by day. It is also exactly adapted to their wants and apprehension. Their life is unfolded in true order. There is no forcing of the mind. Progress in knowledge is more like the growth of a plant. The blossom is not sought before the leaf, nor the fruit before the blossom. The angels have the most exquisite perception of the state of those they instruct, and they touch with the utmost delicacy and skill the secret springs of the will and understanding.
The lives of these heavenly children are also unfolded from within. Freed from the restraints and heavy encumbrance of the body, every organ in their tender spiritual forms is free to move in harmony with the inflowing of life from the Lord, which comes to them from within. Here we learn facts and store them up in the memory, and then compare and arrange them, and thus by slow and laborious processes acquire some knowledge. But in the spiritual world it is not so. There outward things exactly correspond and represent the states of thought and affection within, because they are formed from them. Thus children in heaven see their own life as in a mirror in all things around them.
They are led to knowledge by their delights. All their activities flow from love, and instruction is given to gratify that love, to answer its questions, to satisfy its wants. We can gain some idea of this state, for we see something similar to it, though in a much lower form, in the insatiable curiosity of children in this life. Suppose that curiosity to be increased many degrees, and to be excited only by those things, or those subjects, which are true and good, and suppose it to be in our power to satisfy it, to answer all its questions so fully, to explain and illustrate all it sought to know so clearly that every step would be clear and definite, and firmly planted in the path of life, and every desire satisfied. And suppose this to be done without any weariness to the young soul, without blunting the keen edge of its curiosity, but rather sharpening it and giving it more strength for higher knowledge, would not that be the perfection of instruction ? This is the state of all children in the spiritual world. Their intellectual faculties are excited to action by their affections, and thus they are constantly led, and not driven. Their faculties are all called into harmonious exercise, and their exercise is play, yet with all the good and substantial results of the most patient and laborious effort. Instruction can be given there also by methods altogether beyond the power of any earthly teacher. It is found here that maps, charts, diagrams, and apparatus for visible illustration are most efhcient aids in the communication of scientific truth. With a planetarium we place before the eyes of the pupil the relative size and motions of the heavenly bodies ; we spread out the earth before him, and in various ways represent the customs and character of the people, and the nature and forms of vegetable and animal life. But we are limited on all sides by the imperfection of the materials we must use and by our own power to use them. In the spiritual world there are not these limitations. All its substances yield to the plastic forces of the affections and thoughts more readily than the most fluent materials to the hand of man. Every affection is represented to the life in forms that actually correspond. Thus instruction is not so much verbal as pictorial and representative. They have not merely pictures of visible objects that exist in other places, but representations of affections and thoughts or principles and processes of spiritual life.
Suppose, for example, that an angel wished to teach a company of young children the nature of innocence. Instead of a verbal description, which they must commit to memory, and which then might not be understood, they would be surrounded by all those forms which represent innocence, as by lambs and kids and the young of various animals and birds, and beautiful infants, all sporting together in perfect peace, harmony, and delight. The whole atmosphere would seem to be alive with beautiful forms, and the earth itself filled with living objects which represented to the life innocence in its various kinds, degrees, and relations. Everything that appeared would be the actual correspondent of some form of innocence. Innocence itself would pass before the children like a panorama in a thousand true and beautiful forms, and they would perceive the meaning of all these things. Thus the children’s natures are unfolded in heaven in true order and symmetry. The affections and the intellect go hand in hand. To love is to know, and knowledge is the form of love, and both are embodied in use, in life ; and thus the whole nature, from centre to circumference, is filled with ever-increasing delight.
Swedenborg says it was granted to him to see little children most charmingly attired, having garlands of flowers resplendent with beautiful and heavenly colors twined about their breasts and tender arms. * * And once,” he says, “to see them, with those who have charge of them, in company with maidens, in a paradisal garden most beautifully adorned, not so much with trees as with arbors and covered walks of laurel, and with paths leading inward. And when the little children entered, dressed as I have described, the flowers over the entrance shone forth most joyously. From this it may be manifest,” he adds, ”what dehghts they have, and also that by these pleasant and delightful things they are introduced into the goods of innocence and charity, which are thus continually instilled into them by the Lord.” What a beautiful sight must such a company of children be in the spiritual world ! Surrounded by all things of a loveliness and beauty corresponding to their own beautiful natures ; without a weakness or a pain or a single cloud of sorrow to overshadow their sunny hearts, rosy with perfect health, elastic, graceful, and vigorous in the harmonious development of every organ and power ; innocent, lovely, and loving in all their intercourse, their faces shining with heavenly affections and delights, their voices soft and sweet with celestial harmonies, and their whole forms glowing with the Divine life and becoming the actual embodiment of it ; no clouds above them, no inharmonious and unsightly objects around them, no fear of coming evil, no regrets, no tears, and not a jar in the harmony of their natures ; clothed in heavenly garments of a beauty corresponding to their intelligence, they are beauty, joy, innocence, peace, purity, not only personified, but actually embodied in form.
Would you who have children in these heavenly nurseries call them back into this world, imprison them in the material body, shut them up in our dark dwellings, expose them to the contagion of corrupt examples, and subject them to our imperfect guidance and instruction ? Much as you desire to have them bodily and visibly with you, you could not do it. No. It is well with them.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895